Regulations are beginning to change for Albemarle County residents who utilize their property for short-term rentals like AirBnB.
Beginning Aug. 1, anyone in Albemarle who rents out guest rooms in their homes for less than 30 days will have to collect the Transient Occupancy Tax from renters and pay business, professions and occupations licensing and taxes.
At the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors meeting Wednesday night, the board voted 4-2 to amend county code to require all short-term transient lodging providers to obtain a business license and pay the applicable license fees and taxes, as well as collect the TOT.
Supervisors Norman Dill and Brad Sheffield voted against the amendments.
Hotels and motels in the county already are required to collect the 5 percent TOT that is billed to the customer.
“These tax amendments would create equitable treatment among all transient lodging providers,” said Betty Burrell, county director of finance. “There is a caveat that, I think, is very important to point out — property owners must meet the zoning requirements before operating a transient lodging facility.”
At its meeting May 3, the board heard from county staff about the current requirements to operate a residential short-term rental.
Currently, the zoning ordinance allows residents in both the rural area and the development area to rent out up to five rooms inside a single-family-detached structure as a short-term rental if the owner or a manager is present and other inspections are met. The county currently does not allow transient lodging in a townhouse, a single-family-attached residence or an apartment.
In 2012, the county said residents in the rural area can rent out up to five rooms inside an additional structure, and they can have a second unit for rental on the parcel.
The business license can be obtained once the zoning clearance has been granted, Burrell said.
Supervisor Liz Palmer asked if there was a threshold for collecting the TOT.
“Once you enact this and it becomes effective, if you have one patron, then you are responsible for assessing the TOT,” Burrell said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s just once or it’s all the time.”
The homeowner would report his or her business gross receipts annually and pay the applicable business license fee.
“Currently, the code says that gross receipts of $5,000 or more are reportable and the fee, if it’s under $100,000, is $50,” Burrell said. “In August, we’ll be in front of you requesting that you consider increasing the threshold to $25,000.”
They also will be responsible for reporting business personal property.
“Of course, they have to have a bed, probably nightstands, and lamps and televisions that are all part of renting the rooms to their patrons,” she said. “That is also an annual reporting and payment.”
During a public hearing, residents spoke about some concerns they have with these new regulations.
Scott Stinson, who said he has applied to operate a short-term lodging facility in the county, asked the board to consider waiting until all the new requirements were decided on before moving through with this portion.
“I would encourage you to table this until we get further down the road with all the work sessions we’re having and try to get it together into one big package and have it all make sense, and be able to look at all the fees, all the requirements, all the licenses, the registries and everything all at one time,” he said.
Jeff Robbins, another speaker, said he agreed with Stinson.
“Again, this AirBnB thing is maybe one room, one car; it’s not a hotel, it’s not a bed-and-breakfast,” he said “How you charge — it’s very, very minimal, and to make thing financially feasible for us to do that is going to be tough for business.”
He said that AirBnB offers a unique experience that a person can’t get from a hotel.
“You get a one-on-one personal relationship for a one-night stay, so you’ve got to be careful on not doing away with entrepreneurship and the fact that our fees and regulations are going to take away our community and our personal connection for the people,” Robbins said.
David Boisvert said he commended the board for trying to work this out, but he thinks there’s a possibility that this is making the regulations confusing for people.
“I know many people are using this process to help supplement their income, put kids through college, to have an opportunity ... to pay their taxes and just to assist here in the county,” he said. “As we know, it’s a wonderful place to live, but also an expensive place, so having this additional income is definitely a benefit to a lot of people in the community.”
AirBnB host Kathy Kildea said she considers herself to be a very responsible host, and she says she’s trying to help bring other local hosts into compliance.
“I also consider myself to be a very responsible member of the community. That means I follow the rules and I pay my share, and I’ve been doing that for a couple of years now, and I hope that others will follow along with me,” she said.
County Attorney Greg Kamptner said that there will be a work session at a July board meeting regarding potential amendments to the zoning ordinance with short-term transient lodging and that the final proposal on zoning would be brought to the board later in the fall.